Ladies and gentlemen,
Congratulations to Ambassador El-Molla and all colleagues for this successful conclusion to the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
I am deeply grateful to all the delegates and to my UNOV/UNODC colleagues for their dedication in this truly challenging time, and at this challenging hour of the night.
Our countries and societies remain under terrible pressure. Since the start of this conference, in just five days, there have been nearly two million more people infected by COVID-19 globally.
Amidst these fears and anxieties, we continue to balance concerns of life and work, while taking careful and determined steps towards building a better, safer future for all.
This week brought together delegations from 121 States parties and 101 observer NGOs, UN partners and other organizations. Nearly three-quarters took part in the proceedings virtually, to discuss seven resolutions, the highest number ever.
It has been no easy task to support remote interpretation in the six official UN languages, or for delegates to engage in delicate negotiations while respecting social distancing and staying safe. And yet together, we have shown once again that with cooperation, dedication and good will, we can prevail over any obstacles in our path.
Two decades ago, governments gathered to adopt this landmark Convention against Transnational Crime.
The signatories could hardly have envisioned a world where cross-border crime could be committed at cyber speed, where a global pandemic would leave our societies even more vulnerable to organized criminal groups, that a potential vaccine would be a coveted candidate for criminal exploitation.
And yet we see that the Convention and its Protocols have truly stood the test of time. They remain as relevant as ever, actually they are needed now more than ever.
The record seven resolutions adopted at this session will help us to tackle specific challenges posed by the global pandemic, including by strengthening international cooperation against falsified medical products. They target continuing and emerging challenges posed by environmental crime and the trafficking of cultural property, and reinforce efforts to prevent and stop illicit firearms and trafficking in persons.
Moreover, this Conference took a significant step forward in strengthening joint action against organized crime with the launch of the first phase of the review mechanism of the Convention.
The mechanism will enable us to systematically take stock of results, identify gaps and assistance needs, and improve responses.
UNODC is proud to support you in taking forward the review mechanism, as well as address the specific requests to our Office contained in the resolutions.
Despite continued COVID-related restrictions and restraints, UNODC is committed to delivering to the extent possible, from Vienna and in the field, to provide legislative and technical assistance, capacity building and research, as part of our comprehensive and integrated support to implement the Convention and Protocols.
Tomorrow is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
I have been working in poverty reduction for 30 years. Over the last two decades, we have achieved progress – hard-won development progress that has now been brutally halted and even reversed by the global pandemic.
In 2020, COVID could increase the number of people living in extreme poverty by 88 million to 115 million, according to the World Bank.
Some four billion people were without social protection when the pandemic hit. The most impoverished suffer the highest incidence of the disease and the highest death rates. They are also the most vulnerable to the multiple negative impacts of crime, drugs, corruption and terrorism.
We cannot accept this.
The world has been rendered poorer, and more fragile, by the virus, and our recovery will be difficult and demanding. But recover we surely will, and while we recover, no one should be left behind.
Recovering better and recovering together require us to shield the integrity of our support systems, and to protect people from criminal exploitation and corruption .
The resolutions and new review mechanism resulting from this Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime can provide decisive support.
Using the foundation and resources provided by the Convention and Protocols, let us work together to safeguard the COVID response and recovery, and get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
In closing, please allow me to express my gratitude once again to the President of the 10th session.
Ambassador El-Molla arrived in Vienna, he presented his credentials, immediately attended the IAEA general conference, and then took on this demanding role at the 10th session. I am not sure he has had a chance to leave the Vienna International Centre yet. Congratulations, Ambassador, on this challenging and exciting first month.
My thanks to the extended bureau for their tireless efforts.
I would like to commend and thank Ambassador Hikihara for his skilful chairing of the Committee of the Whole.
My thanks also to John Brandolino, Loide Aryee and DTA staff, as well as colleagues from conference management, information technology service, security and safety service, and all relevant sections of UNODC.
I wish everyone good health and a restful weekend. Thank you, and have a good evening.